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‘Magazine Dreams’ Director Elijah Bynum on Sundance Captions

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Bynum says he was not even aware of the technical issue at his film’s premiere, and looks forward to resolving the issue once the jury attends another screening.

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For better or worse, Elijah Bynum’s “Magazine Dreams” has been one of the most talked about films of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The dark character study, which stars Jonathan Majors as an aspiring bodybuilder battling some serious demons, debuted to strong reviews on Friday night. But jurors for the U.S. Dramatic Competition walked out of the screening due to a technical malfunction that prevented a deaf juror from watching it with captions. The incident sparked a larger debate about accessibility at film festivals, with the jury ultimately releasing an open letter asking Sundance to strengthen its efforts to create an inclusive experience.

As other films race to make accommodations for deaf audiences before their premieres, speculation has run rampant about the role that filmmakers play in deciding whether to include captions in their movies. While some directors might object to screening their movies with open captioning, Bynum isn’t one of them. In an interview with IndieWire, Bynum clarified that the incident was purely a technical malfunction, not an intentional act by anyone on the creative team.

“No, no, of course not,” Bynum said when asked if he had objected to screening his film with open captioning. “We had been told that we were going to have a device that would allow anyone hearing impaired to have the captions. Those devices, or a single device, I’m not sure, malfunctioned last night. And I’m told that we’re doing a private experience where that’s going to be figured out. And hopefully open captions, so we don’t have that problem again. It was quite disappointing to hear about that.”

In her Sundance review of “Magazine Dreams,” IndieWire’s Kate Erbland wrote that: “what Majors does here, how raw and vulnerable and brave he is not just with his craft, but his very body, is something to behold. This is true artistry, absolute commitment, the kind of profound self-control that Killian himself could only dream of seeing through. For Majors, it’s simply the next step in a career on the rise. How lucky we are all to be along for this particular ride, how lucky to see the next big swing.”

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